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Forbidden Island
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on July 20, 2011
Plenty of people have done an admirable job of explaining the games in their reviews, so this is instead an attempt at a comparison between a number of games, the pros and cons of each and which may suit different people best. The games in question are: Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Castle Panic, Smallworld, and Forbidden Island.

We have had Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne (with a number of expansion packs) for quite a few years now, and only recently added the other games above. We usually either play just as two adults, or with our two older children (age 9 and 8), and so our conclusions are based on how these games work in those settings. So here's what we've found:

Settlers of Catan
We got this around the same time as Carcassonne and initially just didn't latch onto it. Partly it's that it's supposed to be 3 players or more, and we often play as just two of us. Once we found online some instructions for playing as 2 players it came out more often, and as time's gone by it's become fairly 50-50 whether we play Settlers or Carcassonne on a quiet night in. The choice will usually depend on how much we want to think. With Settlers, you're always planning and calculating; with Carcassonne, you're taking it a card at a time.

Who should get it: Settlers is well-known as one of the great modern games. I'm not as sold on it as some people, and it takes quite a while to learn and feel comfortable with, but once you get the hang of it, it is an entertaining and enjoyable addition to a games collection. There are several 2-player rule variations out there if you need them and they work well (we found one that worked for us and we've stuck to it). But this isn't a game for kids; I would suspect not until they're 16 or so. Amongst other things, I think they'll find it too dull.

Carcassonne
This has been a favorite for years now, and everyone we've played it with has gone off to get it themselves. We usually play without farms because it then becomes less directly competitive and more sociable. Kids can play it, adults can play it, it's relaxed, it's fun and it's simple to learn. Here's one nice thing about it: you don't have to be constantly thinking and planning ahead. You don't know what card you're going to draw next time, so you just play one card at a time. You're encouraged to discuss where to put a card, and since you don't know what piece you're getting next, your comments to another player are usually pretty unbiased.

Who should get it: In my experience, pretty much anyone, except those who want ultra-competitive games. The first few expansion packs are also well worth getting, but don't bother with anything from Mayor onward.

Castle Panic
The kids love this one, again it's simple to learn and it has the added bonus of allowing them to get out their aggressive instincts and go postal on monsters! They don't like the `master slayer' option, but prefer just straight cooperative play. After the first few plays, I've found the basic game is too easy, and so we're experimenting with making it more challenging, such as starting with no walls, or drawing 3 monster cards at a time instead of 2. I think Castle Panic will become a game that we get out pretty regularly to play.

Who should get it: People with kids, who want to play cooperative games. Could be fun as a party game too!

Smallworld
While the kids have enjoyed playing this, I think their interest is starting to wane already. I suspect it will work better as a game with a group of adults, or when the kids are older. It has a lot going for it, especially the creative cards and board, but as others have noted - what's with the box for the tokens? Very poorly designed and adds unnecessary annoyance. Most of the time when playing we've found it's not too directly competitive, it's easier to attack lost tribes or declining races, so generally it doesn't get too personal!

Who should get it: I think this would make a fun addition to a games collection, but I don't think it would be a go-to game, especially with kids. The rules are more complicated to learn and explain than the other games, and this makes it hard to just sit down with new players and get on with a game. Having said that, we've enjoyed playing it , and I think it'll get pulled out every now and then over the years.

Forbidden Island
Although the kids would prefer Castle Panic, when we've played Forbidden Island (at my insistence!) they've thoroughly enjoyed it. As the island starts to collapse in a heap toward the end of the game, the tension levels rise and people are on the edge of their seats! The game always ends with voices rising in pitch and tension as cards get turned over - it's fun! It's a pure cooperative game, and that works well for us as a family - no one feels bad, we're all in it together. We're still using the `Normal' level of play, maybe we'll notch up a level soon!

Who should get it: If you like cooperative games, I think this is excellent to have. I love how easy it is to set different difficulty levels, and it's definitely the game that's had the most excited tension - Castle Panic has this at times, but not sustained (at least as the basic game). It doesn't have the whole monster thing going for it that Castle Panic does, and I think that's why the kids haven't latched onto it so quickly (kill trolls or wander round an island getting treasure - which is your average kid going to choose?) but I suspect that long-term it'll have more staying power.
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on July 7, 2017
This game is fun and easy to set up and play. If you've played Pandemic (I had, and that's why I was interested in this game), it'll be a familiar feeling. It's a cooperative game that requires all players to play together in order to escape the island. It's a quick play (maybe 20 minutes or so) and very easy to learn for the first time. I'd highly recommend to families and friends who would enjoy playing and winning together!
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on May 8, 2016
I was afraid this game would be on the easy side for a group of adults who like Pandemic. No need for that - having 4 people play made this game seriously difficult. The artwork on the cards is beautiful (is that the Quiraing on one of them?) and there are several elements competing for your attention each turn, so it's a good brain workout. The fast pace of the game keeps you engaged. I think it takes maybe about an hour to play? So it's one of the shorter games we play when we get together.

We did not have such a difficult time beating the game when we played with three people, which I attributed to not so many necessary trades. To win a treasure, you must possess 4 of the 5 cards in the deck for that treasure. The more people you play with, the more trades would be necessary, which eats up a lot of time. So I think if you're considering purchasing this game, it's good to think about how many people will be playing it and what difficulty level you're looking for.

The only issue I had with the game is that one of the treasure objects was not formed well (base is rounded) and won't stand up as a result. Hopefully that is only my game.
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on January 12, 2017
Great game to play with just my husband and I. I love how you work to beat the game, and you are playing with each other, not against each other! Lots of fun! I wish the game lasted a bit longer....takes about 20 minutes before you know if you will win or not, and then another 10 minutes and it is over! Are there any extensions to the game?
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on August 1, 2017
Forbidden Island is a good game to bring out when you have guests who don't play board games often, or if you want to play a game without committing too much time. It's very easy to teach, the concept is straightforward, and it's cooperative. If you've played Pandemic, this is a very similar concept but (in my experience) much easier to win.
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on October 9, 2015
This game is a fun, fast coop game from the same designer who created Pandemic.

Forbidden Island is significantly less involved that Pandemic, and generally takes less time to play, but the pace is faster. It runs quick, so you can fit more games in when you do sit to play.

Quality is absolutely top notch. I like that the treasures aren't just pasteurized wooden pieces, identically-shaped just painted differently - having the treasures be actual mini sculptures makes it more fun, in a purely visual way. The tiles are thick and solid, the cards are actual full-size cards with the air-cushion on them like a brand new regular deck of cards. Really impressed by the quality.

The rules are simple, and the different roles come into play more seriously in certain parts of the game; The Pilot and Diver, for example, really get important once the island starts going down, or certain tiles get isolated. Some games have unique roles that are basically useless; Forbidden Island has roles that are each useful in their own way at their own time.

EDIT: The game is very simple, and goes fast. If you're into "Eurogaming" as a hobby this will be a walk in the park. We've actually left this one on the shelf for quite a while now because it's so gosh darn simple, and we prefer Forbidden Desert lately for the added skill involved.

4/5 for fun, and 5/5 for quality.

**If you want to add some competition, we added one player called the Thief; he has to collect all the relics and get off the island first, and only needs one card (rather than two) to discover a treasure. Players can steal treasures by playing three of a kind and being on the same square as the Thief. The water level rises one tick every two Water Rises cards, which gives everyone more time since they have to fight the Thief. You can tweak our house rules to make it more fun.**
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on July 28, 2015
I've only played a few rounds of Forbidden Island so far with 3 players. We had a great time and thought it was a lot of fun, but I can tell already the replay-ability isn't as high as I had hoped. Once you come up with a strategy, it's pretty easy to beat, especially if someone in your group is the messenger. I do like that you can set the water level higher to start, making it more difficult, but it really doesn't change the game play much, it just makes it more difficult to win. I went back and forth debating between Forbidden Island, Desert, and Pandemic, ultimately picking Island because I liked the idea of a changing game board and the easier mechanics since I primarily game with my wife and friends who don't play many games. Don't get me wrong, I think the game is a lot of fun, especially with new people, but once a group has figured out how to play together and win, you'll find each round being very similar to the previous one. The sinking pieces ups the tension though and is a lot more fun toward the end when you keep losing pieces of the board.

For me this is still a winner, it was the first co-operative style game I'd tried and I really like the concept to break up the usual winner takes all games. The pieces themselves are really nice, and the game is reasonably priced. I think it's just a little too easy for 3 adults to beat. I think this would be perfect for younger family play ~8-14 years or for very casual gamers who don't want a super complicated setup and game.

I'm going to give the game a shot with just my wife as a 2 player and also trying excluding the messenger to up the difficulty with more advanced players. I'll update my review later when I've had a chance to try some different variants with my impressions.
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on December 28, 2011
What a fun game. As you start out, it seems like this game will be easy, then the suspense builds up and up, as the island starts to sink faster and faster. Will you get all of the treasures and escape in time?!
I was please with the thought that went into developing this game. You can tell by the way it plays that fun was a priority. While it is turn based, the collaborative nature of it means that everyone is always a part of the game and always engaged. Lots of fun!
As for the materials, they are well made and the cards are all attractive and interesting. People who care about games made this game. Their only motive was not profit-- unless they realize that the way to sustained profit is to make a high quality product that will last. You can tell they didn't go as cheap as they could. They did it right.
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on April 30, 2016
I was recommended this game from a friend as a "game that two people can play and still have a lot of fun!" And yes, it is! My husband and I are avid gamers and since we had a recent loss of our gaming group due to moving several hours away, we needed something we could do just the two of us. The initial gameplay was slow, since we were playing from the instructions until we got the hang of it, but we won our first game together. After winning, we figured out we had forgotten an important mechanic and sorta accidentally cheated. SO we immediately reset it and played again properly. we still managed to win the second time :) Very satisfying when you can work together to beat the game. It takes about 30-40 minutes to play the game once you know the rules, so its great to just kill a bit of time. There are even options to up the difficulty, so once you've beaten it a handful of times, you can make it more challenging. We've just made a couple of friends in our new town, so we're looking forwards to trying it with them as well.
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on March 8, 2017
We've been diving into the Gamewright universe recently, starting with Dragonwood and Sleeping Queens. This is our third game by the company - our 9 year old stepdaughter LOVES this game, especially the cooperative element. That's really hard to find in a kid's game that is also challenging and not "too young". It's also our favorite so far as adults - just a blast for everyone! Recommend this game and this brand to anyone
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